Canada shouldn't deny women of their identity

A dangerous federal court decision undermines a cornerstone of our civilization.

By: Candice Malcolm

Last week, a federal judge struck down a 2011 law that bans face coverings during Canadian citizenship ceremonies. While swearing the oath of citizenship and becoming a Canadian, the law says, you must show your face.

While the law does not specifically name the niqab and could theoretically apply to any face coverings, the spirit of the law was clearly aimed against the barbaric cultural practice that forces women behind a dark veil, so that they are neither seen nor heard in the presence of men.

According to a federal judge, requiring would-be citizens to show their face while taking the citizenship oath is unconstitutional. The decision is flat out wrong. The federal government has no choice but to appeal the decision to circumvent this unconscionable decision.

This decision undermines the cornerstone of our culture, nay, our civilization.

Canada is an open, liberal, and pluralistic society. We have built this county upon a tradition of ordered liberty that dates back to the Magna Carta. For a woman to cover her face with a niqab — an oppressive faux-religious symbol of domination, inequality of the sexes, and illiberalism that has nothing to do with the traditional practices of Islam — during a citizenship ceremony is completely antithetical to the values of becoming a Canadian.

Yes, Canada is accepting and inclusive to those from many backgrounds and religions. But our society functions because that acceptance and inclusion is built on top of our shared values. And these shared values come first. At its very core, Canada must be a country that promotes freedom (including both of religion and from religion) and equality before the law.

The decision to allow anyone to cover his or her face during a public swearing in ceremony undermines our pluralism and shakes at the core of the idea of equality before the law.

Canada’s social order requires openness, but Canada’s economic order is also fundamentally built upon the concept of trust; we shake hands and make eye contact to seal a deal or make a sale. Think about it; would you buy a used car from a person who refused to show their face? Would you trust a news reporter or politician if they hid their face behind a veil? Likely not. We use facial features as cues to determine whether we like, believe, and trust a person, and whether we want to build a relationship.

If a man walked into a bank with a black mask showing only his eyes, everyone inside would hit the ground and start praying for safety. If a woman walks into a courtroom with a black mask showing only her eyes, we give her Canadian citizenship. This is an irreconcilable distinction. It is counter to everything that is Canadian.

And this is no hypothetical. In the aftermath of the London tube bombs, one terrorist perpetrator was able to move around London, undetected, behind the veil of a niqab. Britons were too polite to question a six-foot-two masked person with shoulders as broad as a linebacker, deceivingly dressed as a burqa-clad Muslin woman, as he frantically scrambled to flee town after murdering scores of innocent civilians.

The federal judge that struck down the face-covering ban in Canadian citizenship ceremonies isn’t alone on being on the wrong side of history. The Globe and Mail and National Post both wrote editorials defending the federal court’s decisions, saying that since the citizenship ceremony is largely symbolic anyway, Canada shouldn’t arbitrarily ban the niqab.

That’s half right. The citizenship ceremony is largely symbolic. And for a woman to cover her face during the most symbolic moment in her journey of coming to Canada demonstrates that she rejects the very basis of our social and economic shared values. If she is not willing to embrace Canadian values for five minutes during a symbolic ceremony, perhaps she should reconsider why she wants to be Canadian in the first place.